You've got Brexit, and we've got THIS." So said the owner of my local bar last week as he pointed to the TV, which was showing hypnotisingly dull footage of Pedro Sánchez's investiture vote. As each of the 350 deputies rose to say "Yes" or "No", I reflected on the similarities between the chaos in the UK and the chaos here in Spain: politicians tackling unprecedentedly complex realities, public dissatisfaction with their attempts and tarnished international reputations. There's a certain bored exasperation among Britons and Spaniards and it's brought on, respectively, by the interminable farce that is Brexit and by Spain's all-too-familiar governmental vacuum.
The latest Good Governance Index, compiled on the basis of World Bank data, confirms that Spain has taken a reputational hit as a result of its political uncertainty: the country dropped two places overall, from 25th in 2016 to 27th in 2017. In the category of "Political Instability" Spain fell seven places, from 33 to 40, prompting one to wonder how much further it would have fallen if the latest governmental void - now entering its fourth month - had been taken into account (the most recent data only takes us up to 2017).
There was plenty of chaos back in 2017 too, of course. Catalan separatists were gearing up to hold an illegal independence referendum, while Mariano Rajoy's ruling Popular Party was embroiled in the biggest corruption scandal in Spain's democratic history (surprisingly, the country only dropped one place in the "Control of Corruption" category, from 31 to 32). There was, at least, a government in office throughout 2017, although its minority status meant that it struggled to pass legislation. Unsurprisingly, Spain fell two places in the "Government Effectiveness" field, from 21 to 23.
The country moved up in the "Rule of Law" category though, from 26th to 25th place: perhaps Rajoy's heavy-handedness over Catalonia was perceived in some quarters as a display of regulatory strength. But there's still an incongruity between Spain being promoted in this respect while being demoted in the "Control of Corruption" category.
It was depressing watching Sánchez's defeat in the investiture votes, even though I did so perched at the bar in my local with an ice-cold beer (the barman speculated that Sánchez, too, was probably off to the pub after losing the second vote. And why not?). The Socialist leader is the best candidate Spaniards have for prime minister at the moment and, if given a second term, could set about repairing Spain's dented international reputation.
Boris Johnson faces a similarly tough PR exercise in the UK over Brexit, which he's promised to deliver on Halloween come what may (not a pun on the name of his hopeless predecessor). Neither of them will have it easy, but my money's on Sánchez doing a better job.